The AquaVault, a portable lockbox, is the type of travel product you would find in the pages of SkyMall magazine next to the heated stadium seat cushion, eye mask attached to a travel pillow or luggage belt with a built-in scale. They’re ingenious yet paradoxically frivolous outside of the first world because of the obvious alternative solutions.
After all how often do you sit in a stadium that’s so cold you need heat under your rump? It’s probably about as often as you would need to store your valuables in a white plastic box with a resettable combination lock that attaches to a lounge chair. You look at these products and can’t help but think: “WTF! Why didn’t I think of that!”
Robert Peck, Avin Samtani and Jonathan Kinas are a trio of friends genius enough to think of the AquaVault. They launched it in summer 2013 after two years of development. To bootstrap their Aventura, Fla.-based business, they gave up six-figure salaries in financial services and industrial contracting, cashed out retirement savings and sold their homes.
“We knew that if we did not execute on this idea, we would forever regret it and wonder what could have been,” said Kinas.
They surely have nothing to regret after hooking a deal on Shark Tank. AquaVault’s founding trio plunged into the Tank in Season 6, March 2015. They were seeking $75,000 for a 12% stake of their business, valuing it at $625,000 on total sales of nearly $90,000.
Computer security king Robert Herjavec first offered $75,000 for 25%. But he retracted after hearing that they sold only 250 units among a dozen websites despite being featured on the Today Show and having reached out to numerous media outlets and bloggers.
“The more I heard, the more problems I heard,” Herjavec said. “I’m out.”
Kevin O’Leary, the educational software mogul, twisted the knife in the wound.
“One moment it was there and then ‘poof’ it’s gone,” O’Leary scolded. “You talk too much and you can’t keep you mouth shut and you lose a deal.”
Men’s fashion tycoon Daymond John offered the same deal as Herjavec. He insisted that they give an answer “now,” without letting any of the other Sharks compete. Peck, Kinas and Samtani glanced at each for a split second and accepted John’s deal without any discussion.
After Shark Tank, sales spiked more than fivefold from $87,000 to $500,000. Sales are expected to top $2 million this year and a mind-blowing $10 million annually within five years.
Kinas proves to be a treasure trove of business insights. He unlocks the secrets of bootstrapping a business, selling with zero marketing budget and locking a deal on Shark Tank.
From an Idea on a Napkin to a Bootstrapped Business
Ho: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Kinas: It was a Saturday afternoon and we were all staying at one of the finer hotels in South Beach. The hotel will remain nameless for obvious reasons. But they now offer AquaVaults to their guests.
Before jumping in the pool, I inconspicuously hid all of my valuables in my shoes and tucked them underneath my lounge chair. Upon returning from a short swim, everything was gone. After wasting hours with the hotel security and police officers, it was very apparent that this unfortunate situation was a common occurrence.
One of the officers said: “Do you have any idea how many times a day we get calls for theft on the beach?” That single response provoked the wheels to spin in overdrive, which gave us the idea for inventing a portable safe that attaches to lounge chairs.
That night we created pages of sketches for what we knew would answer the question, “Where do I hide my valuables when going for a swim?” We knew that virtually everyone either knows of someone or heard of someone being robbed at the beach.
It was just remarkable to discover that nobody had come up with an idea to address this massive problem. Aside from coming up with a great idea, when making the commitment to form our partnership, it was critical that we all had complimentary skill sets, good chemistry and most importantly, we all shared in the same vision.
We acknowledged that every startup is fundamentally uncertain and the only guarantee is the commitment of blood, sweat and tears. We knew right from the beginning that if we were to work together, each one of us had to demonstrate a unique added value to justify the immediate dilution of ownership.
None of us had prior experience with inventing anything. The fear of failure and uncertainty were the first obstacles we collectively needed overcome. To quote Reid Hoffman, “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.”